If you think Liev Schreiber is an unlikely action star, you’re not alone. The Internet is teeming with bloggers angry over the actor’s casting as Sabretooth in “Wolverine,” the upcoming “X-Men” prequel. But Schreiber insists he’s been training for he-man heroics all his life.
“I always loved to play cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians when I was a kid,” he says. “I hate to blow anyone’s cover here, but I don’t think that men really grow past 22 intellectually. We never stop wanting to jump around and play.”
In “Defiance,” the first of two Schreiber-fronted action films, he combines brains with brawn to portray Zus Bielski, a true-life hero who, with his brothers (Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell), led a resistance against the Nazis during World War II.
For Schreiber, who’s spent most of his career playing doctors, artists and intellectuals, it was a welcome change of pace to be clutching a submachine gun and going mano o mano with Craig.
Unlike some cinematic action heroes, Schreiber is a physically imposing man, who often finds himself towering over his co-stars. For his next film – 2009’s comic-book-fueled “Wolverine” – he plays mutant supervillain Sabretooth alongside Hugh Jackman.
“It was insanely fun,” Schreiber, 41, says. “I felt very self-conscious initially because I knew the fans didn’t like the idea of me playing Sabretooth. I think that I’m perceived as a kind of urbane New Yorker. Maybe I’ve played too many Jewish characters. One blogger said, ‘It’s like Woody Allen playing Sabretooth.’
Schreiber chuckles and adds, “But I’m thinking, ‘Well, no, actually it’s not. I’m 6 foot 3. I’m bigger than Hugh Jackman. I can do this.’ “